Nursery certification key obstacle to family-run nurseries in northern Vietnam

Between 1990 and 2010 Vietnam lost over 300,000 ha of natural forests while planting 2.5 ha of trees. Reforestation activities are vital in arresting soil erosion, landslides and land degradation, especially since 25 million people live in or near forests. The national population is expected to rise to 100 million by 2020, which will further increase pressures on natural forests. The national forestry program requires quality seedlings in bulk but the supply from existing nurseries is low both in quality and quantity. In Vietnam, nurseries can be private-, community- or state-run. Research from other countries shows that community nurseries increase smallholders’ access to quality tree seedlings, facilitate their participation in reforestation programmes, and improve incomes. However, there are no studies that delve into family-run nurseries in Vietnam —specifically, what restricts the success of these nurseries and what can be done to overcome those challenges.

A group of farmers working for a smallholder nursery in Son La Province

A group of farmers working for a smallholder nursery in Son La Province

Thuan et al conducted a study in Vietnam’s Son La province to assess the status of private smallholders’ nurseries and define measures to improve them. Analyses of 25 smallholder nurseries located in three districts namely Moc Chau, Mai Son and Thuan Chau showed that smallholder nurseries have a maximum size of 2,500 m2 and maximum income per year of 500 million VN Dong (USD$23,500). This small size and income are explained mainly by limited investment and lack of market access. Additionally, obtaining nursery certification remains difficult and is considered the main obstacle to the progress of these nurseries. The study revealed the strengths of the North VUNH and Son La, including clear land ownership, strong experience in seedling production and abundant labour resources. However, inadequate access to capital, insufficient technical expertise, and lack of information and marketing capabilities limit entry to the larger seedling market and make these nurseries heavily-dependent on the State forest plantation program as the main customer.

The study pinpointed policy, extension, networking development, certification and market access as the main areas for improvement. The authors recommend the incorporation of private nurseries into the national system; and specific technical regulations for, and long-term planning of, seedling production. Also needed are measures that increase access to capital, high quality seeds, technical skills and market information. Compliance with seed certification standards will enhance market competitiveness.

Other specific recommendations include:

  • Develop communication strategies that make use of tools such as manuals, brochures, field trials and demonstrations, radio, TV, seminars, etc. to promote best practice.
  • Conduct technical trainings.
  • Build a network of stakeholders to support the implementation of national programs, increase awareness and technical capacity, and share information.
  • Facilitate access to the website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which contains important information and documentation.
  • Support certification of nurseries.
  • Improve access to markets and market information.

Read the full paper here (original Vietnamese version).

Read the English translation here.

Improving smallholder production systems, markets, productivity, sustainability and incomes is a key focus of the CGIAR’s Collaborative Research Project 6 on Trees, Forests and Agroforestry—of which the World Agroforestry Centre is a key partner.'

Rebecca Selvarajah

Rebecca is a science writer, manager of publishing projects, trainer in science writing, and novelist — working partly from Nairobi, Kenya and partly from Morwell, Australia. With over 15 years of experience in writing, advertising/marketing, publishing and social media, she takes on varied assignments, travelling, if needed, to conduct relevant research and interviews. Originally from Sri Lanka, Rebecca holds a BA honours in Psychology, with minors in Gender Studies and Sociology. Email Rebecca on

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